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if everything happens that can't be done

if everything happens that can't be done

by E.E. Cummings

Versions of Reality Theme

The first line of "if everything happens that can't be done" warns us that we're not going to be in the world we are accustomed to. In the world of this poem, created for just a short 45 lines, everything that can't be done not only can happen, but is happening. This allows even the "stupidest teacher" to discover wonderful things about the world, and we, the readers, can discover them, too. If only we can shake up our traditional notions of language while we're at it.

Questions About Versions of Reality

  1. Do you think that this poem takes place truly in another type of world, in which everything is possible? Why or why not?
  2. How would you describe the world of this poem? What do you think it would look like? Smell like? How would the weather be?
  3. What are examples of impossible things that happen in this poem? Are they actually impossible?
  4. What do you think love has to do with the world of this poem? Does it help create this new version of reality? Or is it merely a reflection of the new reality?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

This poem takes place in a totally different world, because in the world of the poem, anything is possible, and that's not true of our own world.

This poem takes place in the normal world, but the speaker's love transforms it into a space where everything is possible.

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